Landing Page Optimization Defined for SEM

Landing page optimization is the art and science of tuning your site pages to increase conversions. For example, if you currently convert 1 percent of your site visitors into customers and you tune your Web site so 1.5 percent of your visitors convert, you’ve increased the size of your business by 50 percent.

Search marketers need to be concerned about landing page optimization because it can multiply the impact of your search marketing campaigns. For example, if you can increase the value per visitor to a site, you should be in a position to increase your bids in PPC (define) campaigns. That increases the business you do from these campaigns.

Not all search marketers need to have this expertise. If you don’t, you might want to know where to get it.

How Did You Design Your Site?

Start the process by buying into the concept of landing page optimization. Think back to how you designed the site.

Most likely a bunch of opinionated people sat in a room and brainstormed what everyone wanted the site to do. One individual created some concepts. You selected one, made some tweaks by committee, and then built the site. Some companies have enhanced this process by leveraging a vague understanding of the nature of their customers.

What are the chances you achieved perfection on the first try? Don’t take offense at the answer, which is: it’s basically impossible to understand the psychology of thousands of different people who encounter a Web page, try to find what they’re looking for, and where a small percentage of people take the desired action.

Once you embrace this concept, finding the inspiration for investing in landing page optimization becomes easy. Stories of people doubling conversion rates are not at all uncommon, so there are lots of reasons to get excited about this topic.

Landing Page Optimization: The Book

As reference material for this column, I’m using Tim Ash’s excellent new book, “Landing Page Optimization.” The tag line for the book is “The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions” and it’s a promise his book delivers.

The rest of this column is going to extract a small sampling of points from the book to highlight what landing page optimization is all about.

The First Few Steps

Understand the purpose of your site and each page on your site. How is a conversion defined, and how much is it worth? To achieve a goal, you must define the goal. Don’t chuckle at this one; you’d be surprised how many people skip it.

Next, understand your audience. It’s important to understand this will be a perpetual work in progress. In the book, Tim quotes the “Platinum Rule” from Dr. Tony Alessandra: “Do onto others as they would have you do unto them.” This rule captures an important concept about how diverse people are.

In addition, you need to grapple with what you know about your users. Tim quotes Larry Marine of Intuitive Design & Research to illustrate this point:

  • Everything you think you know about your user is probably wrong.
  • The users aren’t who you think they are.
  • They do things differently than you think.
  • They have different reasons for needing your product than you think.

Once you embrace these realities, you should get really excited because now you’re getting some idea as to how much opportunity there is to increase your results via constant testing and optimization.

Web analytics can play a big role in helping you map out how your site visitors behave. There are many ways to do this, but two particularly interesting viewpoints are where the traffic came from (e.g. a search engine, a partner site, etc.), and where they entered your site (what page did they land on?).

Another factor you can’t overlook is seasonality. How site visitors behave in January and December could easily be polar opposites. Of course, market events can have a big impact, too. For example, when the Fed lowered interest rates, the number of people applying for new mortgages online skyrocketed.

Modeling how different types of people will interact with your site is a valuable process. Bryan Eisenberg has been one of the most passionate advocates of mapping the personas of people who visit your site.

Performing usability testing on your site, or mockups before launching your site, can provide invaluable data. No two users will do the exact same thing, but you’ll see their behavior fall into different categories. If you design your site to meet the needs of one type of person, you likely aren’t meeting the needs of other types of people.

The bottom line: choose wisely, and make sure you’re addressing the needs of the right groups of people — ones who might be able to make use of your product or service.


Understanding these aspects of what you’re trying to do with your site, and how visitors will interact with it are the first few key steps down the road to optimizing your conversion. Next week, we’ll turn our attention to the design and execution of the campaign.

Join us for SES London February 19-21 and for training classes on February 22.

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